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Thread: 2019 R2AK: Let The Games Begin

  1. #1
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    2019 R2AK: Let The Games Begin

    The 2019 Race to Alaska officially got underway today with the testing grounds leg from Port Townsend to Victoria BC.
    Conditions were brisk for the crack of dawn start and the 1st 10 boats across the Strait of Juan de Fuca before 10:40:

    10 Dazed and Confused 10:39 am
    9 Sail Like a Girl 10:19 am
    8 Educated Guess 10:05 am
    7 Narwhal 9:53 am
    6 Trickster 9:47 am
    5 Shut and Drive 9:40 am
    4 Givin' the Horns 9:29 am
    3 Angry Beaver - Skiff Sailing Foundation 9:24 am
    2 PT Watercraft 9:10 am
    1 Pear Shaped Racing 8:52 am

    There is a nice report on the start Here!


    But also of interest is the wide variety of alternate propulsion engineering solutions offered from the various competitors as photographed by Rob Casey:https://www.robcaseyphotographer.com/































    https://r2ak.com/
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    Team Shut Up & Drive Report Leg 1



    We had a pre-race meeting so we can discuss our watch schedule (we didn't really need to do any watches but we wanted to test it out and practice our transitions), our navigator (Neil) took us through our strategy for the day.

    The forecast was for medium air, 18-22 knots which is middle of the range for the Figaro 2 - typically full main, water ballasts and weight on the rail. Power on and you let the boat take you on a wild ride.

    The boat is heavy for offshore (yeah, that's why we have four bikes), super solid and stable in heavy choppy lumpy seas, it negotiates waves extremely well and is very easy to drive in heavy-is conditions.

    The big decision of the race was which way to go around the Exclusion Zone (where several shipping lanes meet) - North or South. Distance was pretty much equivalent and we picked North for two reasons. The current seemed to be stronger based on the local current models that we checked and the wind seemed to be sustained. Also, we would be getting away from Point Wilson and the most lumpy seas faster, thus sailing faster earlier.

    This paid off quite nicely as we were able to stay up in the front of the pack with the fast boats that are by design faster than the Figaro 2 is in those conditions.





    The second reason we wanted to be on the Northern side of the course was the ebb - it was ripping and we would have most of the current with us pushing us toward Victoria. The Southern route would have a small component of the current against it.

    The drawback of the Northern route was that it would be pretty beating upwind all the time, except for about 30 min at the end of the race and as we went around the Exclusion Zone, but not enough on a reach to set a kite (in 20 knots with our Asym, we fly).

    Our goal for the day was to see how the team would stay focus, handle the sea state, optimize boat speed, trim and driving and familiarize ourselves with these waters. In particular we wanted to see how we paced against Sail Like a Girl as their boat is the most similar to the Figaro 2 and makes it a good benchmark.

    We sailed off the dock! What a pleasure, raised the jib and we had enough wind, downwind to easily maneuver out of the Port Townsend harbor. We raised the main as soon as we got out of the harbor and started setting up our trim for the race.

    We took it easy for the start but we crossed the line with the Shock 40, Dragon (Team Pear Shaped, we're a big fan) and Sail like a Girl. The Melges 24 was out there as well.

    We had good boat speed on and caught up to most of these boats except for Dragon but we were pretty good speed wise. Dragon and Sail Like a Girl seemed to be uncanvassed at the start (we plan on making aggressive sail changes if we have to to race the boat to its full potential no matter what).

    The conditions were very familiar to most of the sailors as they are pretty similar to what we see on the Potato Patch outside San Francisco Bay every summer...We adjusted quite a bit and fell into a routine. The wind speed was between 15 with gusts up to 22, but averaging about 18 knots initially. It went up to a 20 knot average but the gusts weren't much higher. We knew exactly where to set up each sail. We also knew exactly what wind angle to pick.

    We set the ballasts, had the crew hike hard for the first hour and just pounded through the waves. So much so that our cyclists got their morning shower...It was definitely a bit lumpy for their first outing on the boat in racing conditions!!!

    Because of the fairly large variation in wind and the heavy seas, we had to adjust sail trim quite a bit, particularly main trim so we worked hard on that, pairing the driver with a trimmer.

    Nat started to drive, and then Tanguy drove for a couple of hours as we started the rotation. Nat and Neil went off watch, sleeping on deck, and then below after a few waves convinced them that dedication could perhaps wait for leg 2...The Mustang Survival gear saved our asses, quite literally.

    Both drivers got about 2 hours of driving each and Neil expertly navigated around the Exclusion Zone. As soon as we were off the zone, it was just a beat all the way to Victoria. The seas calmed down a bit as we ventured further out into the strait but the wind remained strong.

    The Shock 40 soon came into sight as well as a trimaran - we used both these boats to push the team and we worked our hardest to keep up with them. Envolee gave all that she had and the ebb helped quite a bit, with our speed over ground around 10 and 11 knots!

    In these conditions, it was nice to have even more weight on the rail.

    Our food team regaled us with some additional breakfast while we were all on the rail.

    Closer to Victoria, we could crack off a little bit as it became clear that we were making the mark - there was a little wind hole which we could spot so we sailed a little bit around it and managed to stay in 10 knots of wind there, adjusting our trim accordingly.

    We had the cyclists organize the pedal drive for the cycling part as soon as we would get into Victoria Inner Harbor. We turned downwind only for 0.5 miles which we covered in about 6 min - as we got to the no sail zone, we dropped the Genoa and reached up for a few seconds, enough time for us to drop the mainsail and enough for the pedal drive to be dropped in the water - the boat continued to drift downwind and the cyclists took over.

    We continued toward the dock at 3.5 knots through the water and 4.5 knots as we were also going downwind and with the now teeny waves. We managed to keep a trimaran fast closing up on us behind, and we beat a ferry to the harbor.

    We rang the finish bell in 5th position - and congratulated Team Pear Shaped on their 1st place immediately!





    A happy team in Victoria - happy with the team performance, focused, on the ball and attuned to the boat's needs. Neil did a fabulous job navigating. Boat speed was good, maneuvers (the few we had at the start and finish) were smooth and organized. We are looking forward to leg 2!





    From back to front and left to right:
    Jeremiah, Rob, Satchel. Justin, Neil, Tanguy, Nat and Brett

    One person didn't get the memo, can you tell who that is?





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    We Get Up At 0400 Fpr This?



    2019 Stage 1 Day 1: The best kind of 5 am
    24 Hour Fact Sheet
    photo credit: Team Sail Like A Girl


    In the beginning there was darkness. Across the internet and Port Townsend, the slumbering heads of R2AK teams and fans alike ‘celebrated’ the annual hitting of the 3:45, 3:53, 4:01 am snooze bar before excitement got the better of their better instincts, and peeled their human forms from grumpy horizontal to whatever excited orientation would get them to the starting line by 5 am. The merciful gods who owned the closest coffee shop opened at 4:00, eyes opened at 4:05. Let there be light, let there be dark roast.







    For at least some of the teams, the alarm was as much a wake up call as it was the dit-dit-dit permission slip to end the restless, eyes-clenched near-sleep. If you’ve ever spent a windy night in a marina, you know the high wind howl that sent racers snugging deeper into their sleeping bags, turned rigging into anxiety whistles, and vibrated loose halyards into clanging mallets, aluminum masts into the instruments of coded percussion that banged out something close to a ball peen on bed pan reminder that leaving in the morning was a bad idea.

    Don’t go to sleep, keep thinking about it. Lay in your bunk, close your eyes and let your exhausted and twitchy mind hear the all-night halyard to mast clang-fest and try to convince yourself that the wind probably isn’t as bad as it sounds (PS: It is). Layer that with your anxiety about big water, your boat, and all of the unchecked boxes after at least a year of preparation. Your whistling rig and screeching fenders the audible reminder that there is a gale raging all the way to Victoria, and that the fatigue-driven half-sleep that none of your crew is getting will end sooner than the wind. Dit-dit-dit, peel eyes, hit snooze, repeat until coffee plus urgency overcomes sleep craving avoidance. This is the day.




    Starting line stress and high wind reality led to at least one team downshifting into race mode hours before the no motors rule went into effect. To capitalize on the chance of getting their 15 tons and 112 years of wooden history towed out of the harbor, Team Ziska’s 52-feet left the dock hours before the start and spent the night standing watch and marking time in open water; ‘heaving to’ and sailing sideways slowly, and up and down across the swell-filled bay until dark turned into almost dawn. Why? Because 11 pm or 5 am, whenever the day functionally started; ready or not, R2AK.

    No one knew about Team Ziska’s precursor overnight of uncomfortable sideways, and by the time the starting horn blew with R2AK precision at 0500-ish, 1,500 fans lined the shore to join the internet masses as a single excited, vicarious, and sleep-deprived community to cheer the 50 teams across the line. The R2AK’s internet diaspora went insane, local schools offered extra credit for student attendance, a brass band played unexpectedly, a recording of the Red Army Choir elbowed for room at the mark and blasted the Soviet National Anthem for the fifth time in as many years. Crowds thronged, the wind puffed up, teams accelerated and within minutes rounded Point Wilson to collide into the leftovers of the overnight gale and the rising freight train of an opposing tide that turned the slurry of racer confidence, skill, calamity, anxiety, into the sum total of the years/weeks/longest sleepless night spent getting ready for right now. To the shore-bound masses and the hundreds of racers finally headed towards Alaska, it was a moment of excited relief that brushed the underside of a puckered hallelujah.

    For some it was the best kind of short lived. A sleek fleet and no joke wind made for one of the fastest Stage Ones in R2AK’s short history. Team Pear Shaped Racing’s Kiwi imported trimaran took Stage One’s symbolic honors at a blistering pace of 3 hours and 52 minutes, two minutes shy of Team MAD Dog’s time in 2016—a pace that proved to be the overture to their record setting pace in Stage Two of 3 days and 20 hours to Ketchikan. Stage One times don’t matter for those who leave Ketchikan with more than memories, but acing the Pass/Fail portion does fan the flames of speculation: is this the year the record falls?


    most pics © Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News








    On Team Pear Shaped’s heels was Team PT Watercraft’s time-lapsed photo finish; Russell Brown and company’s finished in the exact same time as their 2018 Stage One finish. Team by team rang the bell at the dockside finish line until the Empress Hotel opened for high tea and the rising wind and tide closed off the harbor for the smaller and slower. One team reported they were 200 meters from the breakwater before being swept away by tide and howling westerlies into another 12 hours of waiting and clawing for progress. By 1 pm the fleet had divided itself into roughly thirds: the fast who made it into Inner Harbor’s glory, the almost fast who made it to the maple-scented side of the border but were forced into whatever pocket of refuge they could find until wind and tide throttled back to a tolerable misery right around sunset. The trail team of Group B: Team Ziska’s sightseeing tour up Haro Strait clambered back south and lumbered their wood to the dock shortly after 11 pm and rang the bell—ending roughly 24 hours underway. The third fleet was comprised of the prudent and tiny who looked at the forecast and thought their odds were better waiting until Tuesday.

    The outlier was Team Old Fart in a Windstorm who lived up to his chosen and cringe-worthy name by solo sailing his home-built trimaran into the jaws of the afternoon’s peak wind and waves. Twenty miles from shore and in the middle of the shipping lanes, winds gusting to 35, waves topping 6 feet, it was a stress test on the newly cobbled boat’s 2×4 technology, the resolve of US Coast Guard, and stress of family members watching from the sidelines. It ended on the happy side of fate’s coin flip: at time of writing Team Old Fart in a Windstorm was safely anchored off of Chatham Island, seemingly waiting for the wind to pass before pushing out and plopping into the waters that swirl around Victoria’s final approach.

    Day 1’s weather favored the sailors, and the underdog heroes in the human-powered side of the race opted for the better part of valor and hugged the shore on the southern side. Between Port Townsend and Dungeness Spit, 15 teams whose vessels fall somewhere between paddleboard and trimaran placed their small stack of chips onto ‘delay’ and gambled on a calmer future opportunity rather than the short term certainty of sailing, paddling, and/or rowing across the 40 miles of wind-whipped horrible that lies between them and the finish line. 24 hours into the 36-hour time window and R2AK’s plucky small boat navy is somewhere between 0 and 50% of the way to completing Stage 1 without a forecast of a clear weather window before the 5pm cutoff. If our 4 am inbox is any indication, Day 2 looks to be filled the questions of “Will they make it?” and “Is it fair?”

    “Will they make it?”

    No, at least not all of them. At 0430 Team Extremely Insane is heading his SUP for the barn. Wrong board, wrong year, and who knows what else, but after a night weathered in on Protection Island, Alex de Sain made the choice to fight another day. Weather is what it is, and whether we like it or not, teams limit their abilities to overcome when they choose their boat. The Strait of Juan de Fuca raged ugly all night, and other than a predicted bit of slightly less ugly mid-morning, the leftover slop of two solid days of hammer-down wind will make conditions uncomfortable to dangerous all the way across. The smart move for most boats would be to stay put. But R2AK teams make choices that are less than #clearlygifted, and in the history of everything, no one’s ever rowed to Alaska out of prudence.

    “Is it fair?”

    No and yes with equal fervor; we’re coming down fair and balanced on both sides of this Socratic ruse. Race or not, rowboats and kayaks go to Alaska every year, and a SUP has done it at least once. History and instinct tell us that it’s possible and safely done by waiting for the right weather, even if it takes some weeks pinned in by storms. Is it fair that the R2AK only offers a random 36 hours regardless of weather? Is it fair that racers are allowed to take something to Alaska that sparks constant debate on whether it’s a boat or a surfboard? The weather is cruel, the rules are clear, and fairness has got nothing to do with it.

    As the sun rises on the second day of R2AK 2019, fifteen teams will weigh the volume of the ticking clock against the howl of the wind and the height of the waves. There will be elation, disappointment, and the lasting effects of racer decisions. The tension is intoxicating—we can’t turn away!

    24 Hour Fact Sheet

    1st Ever: All race teams that showed up in Port Townsend actually started

    16 teams that chose to to camp or stay in Port Townsend instead of cross the Strait of Juan de Fuca due to very high winds

    4 teams that pushed it through the night

    2 types of music playing at once during the race start

    6 teams swept away from Victoria due to high winds and strong adverse current: HOBIE-1-KENOBIE, Wingnuts, North2Alaska, Try Baby Tri, Ziska, Holopuni

    5 teams crossed the start line and went back into the marina for the night: Smokin’ Haute Rower Buoys, Madame Mollusk, Gorgonian Girl, AlphaWolf, Three Legged Cat

    Perfect Storm: Team Funky Dory. Shoulder trying to blow out, a boat liking water on its inside as much as its outside, a rock lodged into the centerboard trunk that they can’t get out.

    Team Ziska: Last team in Day 1. Arrived at 11:38 PM

    Why people decided to bow out:

    Boat choice/weather: Extremely Insain, Gorgonian Girl, Madame Mollusk,

    Didn’t make it to the start line: Texada, Big Lampowski, Auklet, Discovery

    Gear betrayed them: Ace

    Highest recorded wind at Race Rocks (by the mouth of Victoria): 38 knots
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    Strait of Juan de Fuca Takes No Prisoners





    “It was crazy, waves were coming out of everywhere… I’ve never been in conditions like that.” – Team Ghost the Coast.

    All across R2AK nation, day 2 started early, angry, and asking, “Are they going to make it?” to coffee mugs, tracker screens, and unsuspecting family members still rubbing sleep out of their eyes.

    For teams on the southern side of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the day 2 soundtrack was a mixtape mashup of amps to 11 howling wind against the deafening tick of an imaginary clock that erased possibility with each pounding second; the space between 4:59 and 5 pm in Victoria held the difference between ringing the bell to peel out the decibels of completion and the promise of a year consumed by the inner whispers of “What if…”

    The romp fest weather and Death Star forecast of the day before had cleaved the fleet in two. Teams that made the jump through day 1’s romp and white caps were largely the large ones. With the exception of Team AlphaWolf who slept it out in Port Townsend’s marina in the cabin of their F-28, the dozen or so teams who waited woke to another day of big wind and a waning clock between them and the finish line. They were little ones: open boats, kayaks, paddleboarding teams whose living quarters required assembly and a flat piece of ground. After clawing as far as they could then abdicating from day 1, they clung to whatever beach they could find and alternated their conversations between distraction and strategy until they had to make the call: to go or not to go?

    As the sun rose on R2AK’s second day, the dozen or so boats with passports still in the holster looked at the weather, and made the best call they could in the soundcloud of wind, anxiety, hopes, dreams, and fear. The farther and smaller chose safety and sanity over life and limb. The kayaking crews of Teams Madam Mollusk, Gorgonian Girl, and Overwork made it to Victoria in record time with a “No thank you very much” and a ticket on the Blackball. They rolled their kayaks off the ferry and down the dock to join the festivities with smiles on their faces, the shadow of ‘Next year…’ in their eyes, but their body and souls intact. The two SUP-ing teams of Extremely Insain and LaqVelo looked at the 40 miles of paddling on the right side in a crosswind and beam seas and gave their families and loved ones an early birthday present, retiring from the race like a boss.





    Karl Kruger, whose run to Ketchikan makes him the only guy to date to SUP to R2AK all the way, was dockside in Victoria and answered the question of, “Could he have done it in those conditions?” with a strategy shift. “My plan for that was to paddle from PT to Whidbey Island, portage the three miles to Coupeville, then put in and go up and around the San Juan Islands. It would have added a ton of miles but I would have made it. The weather is different up there—I called some folks and it was flat calm yesterday.”

    After a night sleeping in and around the Dungeness lighthouse, the R2AK cleaver chopped again and split the eight-boat gaggle who camped at the lighthouse into two fleets: those who would go early and those whose faith favored the subset of forecasts calling for a later day crossings.

    They say hindsight is 50/50, but with the information they had, what would you do? The wind was howling already but tends to build in the afternoon. The ebb tide was going to stack up the waves into a tide-driven puckerfest in the morning, but ran the risk of ripping boats past the mark when it switched to a full five knots of flood later in the afternoon. It’s 6 am, you’ve been sleeping rough, cold, and scared on a wind-swept sand dune since you washed up there the the night before. You’re staring backwards at a year of preparation and hope, and forwards to an Alaska you’ve convinced yourself is your destiny. You know your friends and an internet worth of humans are watching the tracker. You know how cold, unpredictable, and unforgiving the next 30 miles will be and have no idea which of the conflicting forecasts to believe. Will it be better now or later? Should you go now or go in a few hours, or just pack it in? What do you do?





    Being clear: beyond the choice for brunch and a ferry ride, it was all horrible. Hearing reports from those who made it across in the morning made the face pale. Team Solveig divided the labor to keep their 20-foot open boat afloat:

    “George was driving on the third reef and I was pumping.”

    Did it ride well?

    “Yes, but it’s an open boat so when the waves break on your side the whole wave fills your boat…”

    And then there was damage; Team Perseverence broke his daggerboard not by going aground, but from the sheer force of the waves.

    “It was chunky out there!”

    How big was it?

    “Right then they were every bit of 6 feet… I heard a big pop and I was checking the amas, to make sure I wasn’t breaking up and the next thing I look over and there’s my daggerboard, broken and hanging on just sticking out on the side. Then the next wave hit and it was gone.” He had only finished building his boat on Friday, but damaged and determined he limped into Victoria on the ragged remains before the tide turned, and was joined by Teams Solveig, You Either Do Stuff Or You Don’t, and Backwards AF. Others weren’t so lucky.




    The three-team chase group from Dungeness who chose a later departure were joined by Team Smokin’ Haute Rower Buoys in the impromptu creation of “Race to Oak Bay” as they were swept north past the harbor mouth with the raging tide and less than an hour to go. In the best kind of R2AK spirit, Team Oaracle fought to the end by exploiting the portage loophole and threw their kayak on a dolly and ran with it for the few miles between where they landed and the finish line. They mapped out the shortest route from A to B and roll-raced their double kayak down the centerline city streets and the greens of a country club golf course (‘Playing through!”), and arrived at the dockside finish line inside of the rules, but 15 minutes outside of the time limit. Since the real one had already been removed, they rang an imaginary bell, and walked through the doors of the racer party to a rousing round of applause.

    Stage One’s story wouldn’t be complete without Team Funky Dory. Thor and Pax were lifelong friends who found their 16’ wooden Swampscott Dory in the bushes and fixed it over the winter. Rebuilding a neglected wooden boat on nights and weekends while working, travelling, and dialing in a run at the R2AK—from the beginning Team Funky Dory’s bootstrap campaign has been a race to the start. The road to the starting line got longer when a routine trip smashed their truck and boat-laden trailer into a Subaru—the dory went airborne and smashed. Everyone lived, but Thor’s shoulder was torn, the dory was damaged, and there were 6 weeks to rehab body and boat. Other than collapsing into occasional sleep, Thor and Pax worked around the clock and got their boat and his shoulder back into shape. After weeks out of the water they finished hours before the Port Townsend start, launched and immediately started sinking—out of the water for so long the wood had dried and shrunk to less than watertight, and their first day was spent sailing and bailing close to shore as the wind raged.





    They spent the night within walking distance to the starting line, but shoved off early to brave the washing machine crossing in a boat so small that it disappeared in between waves. On the crest you could see them bailing. In the trough, just the top of the mast. The bailing slowed as it soaked up in transit, the sailing got better and they took all of their almost 16 feet through the jaws of the wind and into the mouth of the harbor before the wind hammered them with a 30-knot gust that took them from upright to horizontal; ironically capsizing their wooden craft in the basin intended for cruise ships.

    Rather than calling for help or throwing in the towel, they righted the boat, threw the anchor, bailed and sorted themselves out, and rowed to the finish line with 14 minutes to spare. When they rang the bell and exhaled from two days and a year of all out effort, they were cheered and greeted by more than a hundred racers and fans who turned out for the biggest welcome of the race to date—because that’s how R2AK do.

    As sun set on R2AK’s first stage, the docks were filled with racers and fans somewhere between recounting the day and leaning in on the drying out and repairs. The butcher’s bill tomorrow.

    24 Hour Fact Sheet
    15 minutes left of stage one when Funky Dory rang the bell
    1 and 1: 1 swamping of Funky Dory’s Swampscott dory 1 mile from the finish line
    15 minutes Team Oaracle was late to the bell
    1: Number of golf courses Team Oaracle ran through, towing their kayak, to try to get to the bell on time
    15 million plus high fives we saw between teams yesterday
    4 accepted teams that did not cross the start line: Texada, Auklet, Discovery, Big Lampowski
    11 teams crossed the start line and did not ring the bell in time: ACE, Extremely Insain, Overwork, Gorgonian Girl, Madam Mollusk, LaqVelo, Arm & Leg, Ghost the Coast, Old Fart In A Windstorm, Oaracle, Smokin’ Haute Rower Buoys
    36 teams are left to prepare for the campaign to Ketchikan
    7 teams have broken something substantial and are hustling to fix (that we know of)!
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    R2AK: Wound Licking In Victoria

    2019 Day 0: The fleet licks its wounds




    photo credit: Charley Starr

    Other than a collective wide-eyed retelling of the tortured water they all just crossed, and a shared desire to rename the Strait of ‘What the Fuca?’, if there was a theme to Victoria’s lay day it was ‘repair.’ Few teams sailed across the border storm unscathed. The carnage was everywhere, and all over the docks teams were scurrying for supplies, making repairs, and trading advice and supplies to get everyone back on the water. For those with their eyes on the crown, this is less than cutthroat competition, but a win against an opponent at full fighting weight clears the room of future what ifs and yeah buts. Here’s some epoxy, some help, and your ass on a platter.

    While the issues were varied, the root cause could be traced to the past two days of wind-on-tide violence, and the fact that all of the teams sailed hard and then harder for 40 miles on a single port tack, and whatever part that ended up most underwater took a beating. If this was the boaty part of the CDC, we’d release a statement that the monohulls were suffering from an epidemic of forward hatch failure, for the multihulls it was an outbreak of water in the leeward ama. Driven hard and heeled over from the force of the wind, the starboard amas submarined for most of the day, some never surfaced until they were dewatered and resealed dockside. All in all, it was a day of brisk business for the local marine store.

    As far as we know, here is Stage One’s butcher’s bill:

    Ace: Rudder, autopilot, and a $500 VHF that proved less than its marketed waterproof and stopped working when it filled with water.

    Angry Beavers: Forward hatch leaked and watered the interior of their boat. Potentially related, they also lost their fuel cell for generating electricity for their canting keel.

    Dazed and Confused: Broke the teak trim along their main hatch. When they found a replacement at the marine store and said they were in the R2AK, they were mocked by the staff for ‘needing’ teak and were refused the racer discount.

    Funky Dory: A beach landing wedged a rock between the centerboard and the centerboard case jamming the centerboard in the up position. During their capsize at the harbor mouth they lost a dry bag containing flares and other distress equipment. The dry bag was recovered by Canadian customs.

    Holopuni: Shipped water through ‘sealed’ rudder attachments. Team reported the boat handling sluggish with 200 extra pounds in stern.

    Givin’ the Horns: Starboard ama leaks.

    MGB Racing: forward hatch leaks, and leaks along the toe rail.

    Narwhal: Aft starboard ama hatch removed by seas.

    Old Fart in a Windstorm: Broken rudder.

    Pear Shaped Racing: Damaged their bow shifting moorage in Victoria.

    Perseverance: Dagger board snapped in half due to the sheer force of Stage 1’s confused and violent seas.

    Pitoraq: “We broke open a sandwich or two…”

    Razzle Dazzle: Aft starboard ama hatch broken. Dewatering removed a metric ton of water from the starboard ama’s aft compartment.

    Sail like a Girl: Blew out the foot of the mainsail.

    SoggyKru: Much like Team Perseverance, confused and violent seas stressed the daggerboard but rather than it breaking off, the daggerboard held and effectively turned into a lever arm that tried to wedge open the boat’s hull, and created a stress fracture from bow to stern. After dewatering, the starboard ama was lifted above the water with float bags to allow for repairs.

    Try Baby Tri: No damage, but after sailing across in 20+ knots of wind in a 18’ boat with full sails, Christian got a sailmaker to add reef points. His complaint: the reef points cost more than the boat he bought from Craigslist just a few weeks before.

    WIP (Watertight Instant Paradise): Forward hatch opened and filled the boat. “It was like a monsoon in there.” Being no longer watertight, the sea also took the liberty of removing the ‘W’ part of the ‘WIP’ graphics on the bow. The crew discussed removing the ‘P.’

    Ziska was unharmed, but narrowly missed breaking a dockside sea plane.

    …and the media boat blew a forward hatch as it bashed into the head seas, and filled the bunk with water.

    Stage One was designed to be big enough to break teams’ weakest links while they could still walk to a hardware store. It worked, again. As far as we know that was the extent, and as far as we know all critical repairs were made before the sun set in Victoria. Cross your fingers, knock on wood, say your prayers—today is the big push north.

    The Daily Fix by Boldly Went
    We had to bluff, bribe, and ransack several couches to afford it, but this year we’ve leveled up our coverage team with some real deal podcasters to bring you a couple weeks of all-pro audibles—straight from the racers’ mouths to your ear holes. For several years Angel and Tim have gone the world over capturing the adventure stories of the dirtbag set through their podcast, Boldly Went, and for a couple of weeks they’ll be wrapping their brain and microphones around the whatever the hell R2AK is/turns out to be. Actual professionals—this is a real “check out our big girl pants” moment for us. We’re all grown up.

    Here’s their first, and it spans the stories from the Soviet National Anthem to the end of Stage One.

    https://r2ak.com/2019-daily-updates/...ks-its-wounds/
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    Start From Victoria



    A Port Townsend High School sophomore set out to make Race to Alaska history as he climbed aboard his crew’s boat in Victoria on Thursday.
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    friday Leaderboard



    http://tracker.r2ak.com/

    Race got underway Thursday and the leaders are making decent progress:




    While we wait for the official report, here are some shots of the start, which required human propulsion to get to the windline:





    most image © tim knight














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    Day One: They Are Off




    2019 Day 1: Go
    Clip of the Day
    24 Hour Fact Sheet
    photo credit: Mitchell Osborn

    There are still moments in every life when you stare into the precipice of possibility, toe up to the edge, and peer over the cliff of the unknown. It’s not the day you leave for college, get married, join the army, start chemo—it’s the day, hour, and 15 minutes before; the resigned and the fleeting finite between you and the whatever irreversible-maybe that is bigger than you. The staring down the ski jump waiting room moment before the next big thing is filled with the twitchy resigned excitement of a quarter horse too long in the gates. You rattle around a little; sick of confinement, nervous about the release, wide-eyed resigned to the course ahead, ready to run.

    The time between teams’ Stage One arrival in Victoria and Stage Two’s high noon departure runs an arc. Teams punch their emotional passport with stops in late night celebration, stress based consumption of alcohol and other marine supplies, retail and more standard hangovers, and the last minute fiddling that, regardless of scale of the issue, takes 5 minutes longer than time allows. After a year or more of preparation, two days of repairs and reflection, today was no different.

    10:00 am: In the last hours of pre-race existence, teams harnessed/accommodated their nerves by futzing, fixing, and last minute buys. Team Funky Dory ran for a last minute bottle of rubbing alcohol, Team North2Alaska sent a fan on a mission of mercy for toilet paper and Tums. Team Holopuni released their epoxy to re laminate a crossbeam that was parting ways with itself. An electric grinder was grinding metal, Christian from Team Try Baby Tri was rewiring his electrical system at 11:40. You know, last minute things.

    11:45 am: Docks were cleared of civilians and last hugs, kisses, and the well wishes offered from loved ones had the layers of everything: encouragement, love, fear for safety, preemptive longing, and the knowledge that the experiences between here and Ketchikan might make them further apart while the racers got closer to each other and themselves and somehow farther from the rest of the regular world.

    11:50 am: Racers’ gathered under a statue of Captain Cook’s bronze and skeptical gaze. Families and loved ones wandered their teary eyes into the gathered crowd of the thousand-plus fans, press, and the ‘What are all these people looking at?’ curious, who when getting the explanation inevitably blurted something between, “That’s crazy,” and, “In that thing?” At 11:51 Team Watertight Instant Paradise was first to the statue’s rally point. An affirmative answer to, “Are we in the right place?” was soon followed by, “So, that means we win this part?”

    11:55 am: Bells and horns launched the five minute countdown. Team Angry Beaver lined up shot glasses on some sort of snow ski apparatus. Selfies were taken, bibles were quoted with an unknown mix of irony and sincerity, chants, hi-fives, one last motivational speech from the Race Boss, 5-4-3-2-1.




    Go.

    12:00 pm: Horns and bells started the cheers of hundreds of spectators as shoed and barefooted teams bounded the stairs and ran down the docks to jump in their boats to human power out of Victoria’s harbor. The harbor churned the hard core hilarious kind of froth as everything from Team Shut-up and Drive’s four pro-cyclists pushed their racing sailboats with twin tandems and pro-cyclists, to Team Ziska whose wooden oars moved twelve tons of wood and more wood into the wind that hardly came soon enough for their sweaty crew.




    Within minutes of the start, Stage Two lost its first team. The last standing member of Team AlphaWolf decided that he didn’t have enough crew to do the race successfully. He was supposed to be one of three, but now it was just him and the trip to Vic was the first time any of them had sailed the boat. He ran the stairs, then got lunch across the street. AlphaWolf, party of one.

    In what has become an R2AK tradition, teams crossed the starting line and raised sails into the lightest of winds at the Victoria Harbor mouth. The downeast rowing dynamo onboard Team Backwards AF sprinted ahead thanks to light conditions and superior conditioning gave an early lead—rowing the only solely human-powered vessel still remaining after the Proving Grounds. Their steady oars held off the competition for the better part of 20 miles, and kept their rowboat in the top five until they had to turn in for the night.




    As the lead boats headed to Haro, the winning math changed to sail area + waterline = faster, and Teams Pear Shaped Racing, Angry Beaver, and Givin’ the Horns passed around the lead like a cold sore at a middle school dance. Facing a half-hearted forecast and changing tide, teams were faced with the first strategic choice: inside and the shorter straight-line distance, or the out and around gamble for the El Dorado promise of clearer wind in the Strait of Georgia. The tide was changing, there were hours to go until the tide turned currents southbound; would the wind appear, and where?

    Team Angry Beaver followed Pear Shaped Racing into the islands, effectively cutting the corner of the trackline being followed by all the teams that stayed in the big water east of Saturna. The wind was light to absent, and after the big trimaran turned up Trincomali, the Beavers headfaked, then ducked onto the moving sidewalk of Active Pass’s 5 knots of favorable current, and rocketed into the lead. After the wind snickered and glassed off inside, Team Pear Shaped racing followed suit.







    Other than Team Shut up and Drive chatting amongst themselves as they pedaled the length of the Gulf Islands, the small boat navy, and the visual dissonance of Team Razzle Dazzle, most of the rest of the pack stayed outside on the promise of clear air. It paid off. Team Givin’ the Horns’ dark horse bid for glory took the lead for several hours while the scratch boats were stuck in the islands. It’s a long race with a million wins and losses between Victoria and Ketchikan, but the Horn boys were at least 1-0 as darkness fell on day one. At the dawn of Day 2, they’re still in striking distance—both to the teams in the lead and to the seemingly record level minefield of driftwood that crews are weaving through. Record tides are lifting and launching the driftwood fleet in force, a conscription of sorts into nature’s navy that looks hell bent on defending Alaska by any means necessary. That we launched Stage Two on D-Day is not lost on us.

    At time of posting 35 teams are still hard at it, the leaders are sailing into a twelve-hour forecast of headwinds ranging in strength between a bird fart and a low setting ceiling fan. The gaps will close, pedals will rage, and Seymour Narrows will have to wait a little longer.

    R2AK—out.

    24 Hour Fact Sheet
    2 hours 5 minutes: number of hours Backwards AF was in the lead (11 miles)
    3: number of times lead has changed hands
    78 miles: Distance between leaders and last place as of midnight
    1/2 mile: Distance between leaders at time of writing (Pear Shaped Racing and Angry Beaver)
    25 miles: Distance between 3rd and 4th place at time of writing (Givin’ the Horns and Sail Like a Girl)
    1: Number of teams that completed Stage One but did not start Stage Two (AlphaWolf)

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  9. #9
    Finally!

    Go Team Shut Up and Drive!

  10. #10
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    Day 2: Seymour Narrows Comes Into Play

    2019 Day 2: Redlight/Greenlight with Seymour Narrows
    Clip of the Day
    24 Hour Fact Sheet
    photo credit: Drew Malcolm





    Unless you’re Joseph Heller or that crazy guy on the corner, stories are expected to be chronological. Establish a reality, create affinity with the protagonists, introduce conflict, create some sort of climax, and then resolve everything by the end of the third act. These things have rules. To the ‘Cant. Stop. Watching.’ chagrin of the bleary eyed tracker fans and families of anyone in the northern third of the race, Day 2 was almost over before it got started. Friday TLDR’d sunrise to sunset and fast forwarded to the cluster run of Seymour Narrows as nature applauded the third/opening act with the pink-for-forever, sky-on-fire sunset with no less than eight teams hitting the first tidal gate at Seymour.






    http://tracker.r2ak.com/


    For the new kids in the class, more than the first of two checkpoints teams are required to pass through, Seymour Narrows is the legendary passage that is spoken in hushed tones that are equal parts frightened and reverential. Midway up the inside of VanIsle, Seymour Narrows is more or less the battleground where rising tides from the northern Queen Charlotte Sound collide with the waters of the Strait of Georgia. 100+ miles of water in each direction pulled by the cosmic force, gravity of the sun and moon, and forced through a channel slightly less than 750 meters wide. It’s a hydrodynamic rugby scrum between north and south, an oceanic pendulum that swings from stop to stop at a velocity of upwards of 15 knots…or something like that. Regardless of our best swing metaphors that clock in at less than adequate, Seymour is a force to be reckoned with. George Vancouver logged it as “one of the vilest pieces of water in the world,” and even after the largest non-nuclear explosion was engineered to make it less horrible by removing the worst of it, even cruise ships that pack 10,000+ horsepower into their bow thrusters alone still make a point to get through Seymour when the current is theoretically slack.




    For the R2AK’s pedal-powered set, unless the wind is howling the Narrows is a gate that closes when the water goes the wrong way. Miss the gate, you wait until it opens again—even if you’re Team Pear Shaped Racing and well in the lead on a high performance trimaran. The Pears were handily ahead. They had gotten into clear air the night before and gone from slightly behind to well in front of the downwind engine of Team Angry Beaver. Not an over-the-horizon runaway, but they steadily increased the gap between them and anyone/everyone behind them. Then the tide turned, the gate slammed closed, and Seymour’s aquatic treadmill kept increasing speed in the wrong direction until the Pear Shapes had to admit that despite their sailing faster than anyone, their boat was going nine knots to nowhere. Time to take a number and wait.








    At the same time, lower in the course the sun was shining on a downwind run that sent the chase pack north at closing speed; licking their chops and bunching up like your oldest pair of underwear on a sweaty jog. Teams Givin’ the Horns and Angry Beaver worked what back eddy there was on Campbell River’s far shore—stemming the tide at sometimes as little as a couple of knots toward the gate but more than the leader was able to make as they waited for the tide to turn. Not far behind, Team Sail Like a Girl showed their champion streak and had clawed back to close enough and were matching tacks with the global talent of Team Shut Up and Drive, all the while fending off solid PNW trimaran sailors on Teams Trickster and Narwhal.
    It’s hard not to personify the tide table predicted, yet somehow random, nature of this year’s gambit at the Narrows. In years past, the leaders have tended to fly through before the gate slammed shut on the rest, giving a ‘rich get richer’ lead to the first ones through; playing a less than egalitarian role in deciding who got the money and who had to fight it out for the steak knives. This seems to be an Occupy Seymour year, with the Narrows showing a Marxist streak and doing their best to level the field; playing the role of the fair-minded parent who measures out the sugar cereal so the kids won’t “IT’S NOT FAIR” when all that was left was the dregs and the oat bran.







    Going through is easy at slack, no different from any other narrows but you want to be within the 1/2 hour mark. What is hard is to go through or come back without the against current slogging on one of the stretches. In the narrows, steer toward the tongue of the current stream (east of mid-channel) to avoid the whirlpools and eddies north of Maud Island up to North Bluff.
    The strongest currents in Seymour Narrows are near where Ripple Rock was, slightly west of mid-channel, directly beneath the hydro lines between Vancouver and Maud islands. On a flood, the strongest turbulence will be along the west wall and in the area south of Ripple Rock. On an ebb, the turbulence – and the set – starts between Maud Island and Ripple Rock. The current sets northwest to the west wall..
    On major tides in slow vessels it’s prudent to be at the Maud Island light at slack or just a few minutes into the north-flowing ebb. If the slack is low water, be sure to arrive at the pass before the end of the ebb because slack here on large tides is not long – five to 10 minutes at most – and you'll want to be past Brown Bay before the south-flowing flood gets under way, which can challenge a slow boat. On a large flood, Seymour Narrows can reach 16 knots – no place to be in any kind of boat. Going with the current on max ebb,really shouldn't be a problem for experienced crews. .
    Have gone through at max ebb on a minus tide under sail in a 33' sailboat no problem. Sailed through the worst of the whirlpools easily, then just after coming out of the worst whirlpools, got caught in the first of the minor whirlpools, kept our speed up first jibing then tacking as we did one complete revolution and then sailed right out of it. Most experienced sailors shouldn't have to much of a problem with this. Going through Dent Rapids followed by Yuculta Rapids is more of a challenge then Seymour Narrows.
    Boomer Deep



    Seymour Narrows: “Now wait for the others dear…”
    Team Pear Shaped Racing: *kicks rocks*


    Overnight, Johnstone Strait, R2AK’s other sometimes sentinel antagonist, appears to have offered only a half-hearted shadow of the angry god playpen it’s been for teams in the past. Saturday night winds clocked in far shy of the 40 knot gales that routinely rage against Johnstone’s serious tides in what amounts to a ‘hold my beer’ reminder to Juan de Fuca of how the pros do it. That much wind against that much current; in past years the square-headed mountains of froth it’s created has littered its shores and these write ups with broken boats and sunken spirits; masts have snapped, rudders broken, carnage stacking up of all kinds and teams coming to their senses. This year, with winds predicted at 15 knots diminishing to 10, it’s more like the guy at the haunted house who just can’t get into character. “Boo, or whatever.”


    As the day dawns and the curtain closes on Day 2, Team Pear Shape’s superior boat speed has put some distance between itself and number two, but with Team Givin’ the Horns close behind, Team Angry Beaver on the dark side of the tracker (yes, we think it’s annoying too), and five more through the gate—who knows what the day will bring.
    36 hours into Stage Two, and the lead pack has been forced into a restart—eight teams through on the the first tidal gate (the most ever), two more teams on the next, and with 500+ miles to go, this looks like the race-iest Race to Alaska that we’ve ever had.
    24 Hour Fact Sheet
    • 12 teams are through the Narrows as of publication time
    • 284 miles between first and last place
    • R2Ache made it to graduation, cheers!
    Comparison of time it took leaders to get to Seymour Narrows:
    • 25 hours in 2016 for Mad Dog Racing
    • 33.5 hours for Pear Shaped Racing
    • 36 hours in 2017 Freeburd/Pure & Wild
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